SHANGHAI (AP) — For a minute or two, Norwegian swimmer Alexander Dale Oen was able to block out the massacre and concentrate on nothing but the pool.
Then, as soon as he won the 100-meter breaststroke Monday, he pointed to the Norwegian flag on his cap. He rose from the water and flexed his biceps — a show of strength to those back home.
“We need to stay united,” he said. “Everyone back home now is of course paralyzed with what happened. But it was important for me to symbolize that even though I’m here in China, I’m able to feel the same emotions.”
Dale Oen, the silver medalist in this event at the 2008 Olympics, won in 58.71 seconds. Italy’s Fabio Scozzoli took the silver medal in 59.42 and South Africa’s Cameron van der Burgh won the bronze in 59.49.
Dale Oen said it has been especially difficult to dwell on swimming following the bombing and shooting spree in Norway that killed 93 people.
He’s been asked repeatedly about the attacks and teared up several times. At the news conference following his victory, he wore black tape around his T-shirt sleeve, just below the Norwegian flag.
“I guess I was racing a little bit more with my heart today than I was technically,” he said.
Dale Oen said the Norwegian swimmers have been comforting one another. In the hours leading to his race they summoned “positive feelings and a positive atmosphere.”
“I just tried to use what happened back home as fuel and try to think that we just need to push forward and we really need just to let everyday life come back. We can’t let this guy ruin the future for us,” he added, referring to Anders Behring Breivik, who has confessed to the twin terrorist attacks and has called for a revolution that would rid Europe of Muslims.
On the medal stand, though, Dale Oen’s feelings came rushing back and he wiped away a tear.
“I was just thinking about those back home and seeing the flag and hearing the national anthem, really,” he said. “Even though it’s been three or four days now, it’s still a shock.”